What is Network Performance Monitoring and Diagnostics?

Gartner defines the network performance monitoring and diagnostic (NPMD) market as tools that leverage a combination packet, flow, and device monitoring (SNMP, WMI, synthetic testing, etc).

Network performance monitoring and diagnostic tools provide troubleshooting workflows and forensic data to identify the root causes of performance and security issues and leverages artificial intelligence (AIOps) to help automate the discovery and alerting process. NPMD tools can provide insight into end-user experience using network metrics.

What challenges does Network Performance Monitoring and Diagnostics address?

IT environments have become more complex and distributed, especially since the pandemic forced many employees to work from home. This has increased pressure to modernize to meet new demands for agility, speed and capacity. IT leaders are adopting hybrid and multi-cloud architectures that combine on-premises and off-premises infrastructure, connected by private and public transport types.

But this complexity is leading to new and different blind spots, which necessitates organizations rethink their network performance management and diagnostic strategies. Network operations teams that have fragmented, siloed tool sets struggle with problem detection and spend more time on reactive troubleshooting. While integrated platforms are more effective at performance monitoring than standalone best-of-breed tools (EMA, Network Management Megatrends 2020, May 2120).

Network Performance Monitoring and Diagnostics Best Practices

What do we mean by integrated or unified NPMD and how does it accelerate troubleshooting, enhance IT collaboration, and eliminate blind spots? Unified network performance monitoring and diagnostic tools should collect all packets, all flows, and all device metrics and integrate them in collated, cross-domain dashboards easily tailored to specific audiences and use cases.

In addition, a unified network performance monitoring (NPM) platform captures huge volumes of full-fidelity data (never sampled) across all of your on-premises, virtual, and multi-cloud network environments, transforming it into real, actionable insights your business can use to more quickly detect and fix network and application performance issues and security threats before they impact business productivity.

NPMD tools are meant to provide the breadth and depth of visibility needed by the enterprise by analyzing data from several of the following perspectives and techniques:

Device polling – Your network is filled with infrastructure components – router, switches, etc. Understanding if they are running at peak efficiency and how their behavior is affecting your applications is an essential part of network performance management and diagnostics. Fortunately, most devices support SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol) polling, which delivers critical network diagnostics about network device and interface availability and other performance indicators, such as packet loss, errors, discards, CPU, and memory. Other forms of device polling include WMI, CLI, APIs, syslog, and synthetic testing. Streaming telemetry is also quickly catching on as an alternative to SNMP.

Flow Monitoring – Flow monitoring helps IT understand how a network is performing. Flow data offers up-to-the-minute information about communications occurring over the network, including who is sending how much data to whom, as well as how and when. It is available from common devices like routers, switches, firewalls, and load balancers and is easily collected enterprise wide, including the cloud. Thus, flow provides an excellent perspective for end-to-end performance monitoring and incident detection and response.

Packet Capture – There’s a common saying that “packets don’t lie.” Packets provide the only raw, unmanipulated, vendor-agnostic view of performance with real-time and historical visibility into traffic behavior. Packet analysis can identify sources of delay, measure response time and user experience, and, ultimately, pinpoint the root cause of performance problems with fine-grained detail.

By bringing this data together into integrated views and dashboards, IT can identify previously undetectable problems and threats.

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